On Wednesday morning, we woke up bright and early to get ready for our train ride to London, England! Why did we decide to visit London, you may ask? Well, first and foremost, two of my dearest friends, Rachel and Morwenna, live in England. We met on-line through twitter and became friends and pen pals, nearly 2 years ago! Secondly, Nuno's aunt, uncle and cousins live in London. Nuno hasn't seen his aunt & uncle since childhood and the girls and I have never met them! And lastly, I've always wanted to see London, the Big Ben clock tower, and those red telephone booths!
We arrived at Paris's Gare Du Nord train station at 7:15 am
Just like at an airport, we had to check in, go through security, show passports and wait for our boarding call
The girls and I, just about to board the Eurostar train to London!
Now before I go on, I must tell you that this train ride and our overnight stay in London, almost didn't happen! Can you believe it? We had purchased our tickets weeks ahead of time, arrived at the airport early, we didn't forget anything, everything was perfect, and we were SO excited! But things weren't as perfect as they seemed!
Shortly after sitting down in our seats, I went into my bag, the one you see in the photo above, to put something away (I can't remember what), and out of habit, I searched around to make sure our money wallet was safely tucked inside. Well, what do you know, the wallet was not in the bag, where it is always is and should have been. We knew the wallet wasn't in the large suitcase and the only other place it could be was in the black bag. But it wasn't there!! Nuno said, "We have to get off this train! We can't go to London without any money!". I felt like I had no strength in my body and I was in complete shock. I thought of Rachel, Morwenna, Nuno's family, all waiting for our arrival. And now, with only 5 minutes left until departure, we had no money, and we were going to miss our train. And to make matters worse, we had all of our euros, pounds, and canadian dollars in the missing wallet!
I told the girls, "Get up, quickly, we have to go!". The poor girls didn't even realize what was going on. I knew that the chances of finding a wallet full of cash would be slim, let alone finding a wallet within 5 minutes, before our train departed. By this time, Nuno was already off the train, with the large suitcase, waiting for us. The girls and I walked quickly down the aisle, and then I heard the voice of a gentleman, "Excuse me? Is this yours?" Words cannot tell you the relief I felt, there it was, in front of me, the large, black wallet in the hands of this saint! I yelled out, "Nuno, it's here, it's here!". He came back inside, we thanked the gentleman so much. He said he found it on the floor.
I still don't know how the wallet came to be there. All I know is that thanks to that gentleman's honesty, we remained on the train and departed shortly thereafter. A woman sitting next to us, in her European accent, said to me, " Now, it's time to drink some champagne!". I laughed, and agreed, still shaken up from the whole incident. The gentleman who found the wallet, said this has to happen at least once in everyone's lifetime. I just hoped that was the first and last time.
The train ride from Paris to London, is only 2 hours, 15 minutes. The actual time spent in the under water tunnel is 19 minutes. It was quite an experience, knowing we were traveling in a train, under the sea bed!
Our arrival at St. Pancras Station in London!!
A close-up of the beautiful bronze sculpture - "The Meeting Place", by British artist, Paul Day.
As soon as we arrived, we went outside to wait in the line-up for a taxi. The sky was blue and the sun was shining! It wasn't very long before we were seated in a London taxi, and on our way to Rachel's flat in London. My dear friend Rachel, and her husband Paul, were so gracious to offer us their beautiful flat to stay in for the night. We are ever so grateful to them for their hospitality!
I couldn't believe it when I first saw her standing there! And, of course, we hugged and said hello! It was funny because we had never met in person, but it felt as though we knew each other so well! It was all so surreal and I couldn't believe I was there, in the same city, in the same room, as Rachel. We put our things away, sat, talked and drank some tea. Rachel was every bit as dear as I knew she would be. Soon after, we went out onto Marylebone Street and Rachel became our official tour guide for the remainder of the day. Here are some photos we took along the way...
A traditional London pub
Annabel and I, standing in front of an old post box. I believe this one dates back to 1901-1910. We know this because of the ER monogram on the front - ER for Edward Rex VII
The Dominion Theatre
Rachel & I posing by a red telephone box!
A peek into Neil's Yard, Covent Garden
Seating area in Neal's Yard, so bright and colourful. I loved passing through here! Rachel and I bought some special rose forks and spoons in a cute little shop, called RICE.
We stopped for lunch at Kopapa restaurant, owned by one of Rachel's friends, Peter Gordon. Rachel and I ordered this delicious assorted platter with grilled chorizo, olives, chillies, and sweet potato tortilla. It was excellent. Nuno had the New Zealand lamb, which he absolutely loved!
Covent Garden Station
Annabel was the star of the show, helping this talented, hilarious street performer with his magic act!
"A small piece of Canada, in the heart of London"
Beautiful Trafalgar Square
King George IV statue in Trafalgar Square
Lord Nelson's Column
A peek at Big Ben, in the distance
Standing in front of the fountain
The girls inside the mammoth M&M store
London's China Town
Here we are, taking a taxi back to the flat to have some cake and tea!
This is the beautiful Victoria Sponge that Rachel baked! Isn't it wonderful?! Two layers of moist Victoria sponge, sandwiched together with delicious butter cream and raspberry jam, and sprinkled with sugar. It made me feel so special, to know that this cake was baked with so much love, carried in a tin, on the train, just for me! Thank you so much dear Rachel, it was absolutely delicious!!
A special moment...two friends sharing a cup of tea and a slice of cake...just like we always tweeted about!
After our tea and cake, Rachel and I still had some time before our dinner meeting with Morwenna. So, Nuno stayed with the girls, while they watched The Railway Children, and Rachel and I went shopping, of course! And where did we go? Where else, but...
And soon thereafter, it was time to go for dinner and to finally have the pleasure of meeting our dear friend, Morwenna! Rachel had made dinner reservations at the Golden Hind, 73 Marylebone Lane. It is a popular fish n' chips restaurant, one of the best in all of London!
Drum roll, please...
And here we all are, seated together! It was wonderful to finally meet Morwenna. She was so lovely and radiant! The fish and chips was delicious! And, I tried mushy peas, for the first time ever. Morwenna and I enjoyed them. Rachel, on the other hand, did not want mushy peas, as she she said, if she wants the peas mushy, she will mush them herself! LOL!!
I don't think we realized a photo was coming!
The time the three of us spent together was short, but sweet. I had to say goodbye to Rachel after dinner, as she still had to take the train back home. I felt a pang of sadness having to say goodbye. We had only just met, and already we had to say goodbye. But, in my heart of hearts, I know we will meet again one day, here or there. Our paths will cross again!
Morwenna and I said goodnight, but only until the morning, where we scheduled to meet up at Picadilly Circus at 9:30 am! More fun London adventures to come on Day 5, on the London bus tour with Morwenna and Nathan!
My evening was not over, though. After dinner, Nuno's family picked us up and brought us to their home. I really enjoyed meeting Nuno's aunt and uncle and seeing Ricardo and Hugo (Nuno's cousins). A second lovely cake was baked for us...still warm from the oven. We spent some time talking and catching up. Afterall, it had been so many years! Anita and her cousin Hugo became friends and exchanged email addresses. It was so nice to see them connect. What a lovely evening we all had! Here are a couple of family photos...
Left to right: Ricardo, Tio Carlos, Tia Isabel, Hugo, Nuno and Anita
Annabel is missing...she fell fast asleep in the car.
We arrived back at the flat just after midnight, feeling very, very tired. We fell asleep, so very cozy in Rachel's flat. I felt a little bit like Cinderella, after the ball. It was a whirlwind of a magical day! One I won't soon forget! Stay tuned for day 2 in London!